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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

“Miss Julie, Clarissa and John” at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Co.

Posted By on Wed, Mar 30, 2016 at 10:00 AM

This week brings the final four performances of this new play that most critics have been loving as much as CP’s Ted Hoover did. Audiences seem to have been pleased, too: Playwrights extended the show’s run a week to make possible these four extra shows.

click to enlarge Tami Dixon (left) and Chrystal Bates in "Miss Julie, Clarissa and John" - PHOTO COURTESY OF GAIL L. MANKER
  • Photo courtesy of Gail L. Manker
  • Tami Dixon (left) and Chrystal Bates in "Miss Julie, Clarissa and John"
Indeed, I can’t add any better advice than this: Go. Mark Clayton Southers, the troupe’s founder and a seasoned playwright, has outdone himself with this drama inspired by August Strindberg’s 1888 classic Miss Julie, about an illicit affair between a rich woman and her father’s top servant. Sagely, Southers retains the time period but transfers the action to Virginia and makes the servant a freed former African-American slave. All this builds on Strindberg’s dynamics while opening up a vast thematic and emotional range.

The production nails just about everything, from scenic designer Tony Ferrieri’s raw-wood set to the sharp direction by Monteze Freeland. The acting is top-notch: In Tami Dixon’s hands, the impetuous Julie becomes a chilling portrait of white privilege avant la lettre, while Kevin Brown is solid as John and Chrystal Bates (one of Pittsburgh theater’s best-kept secrets) spectacular as John’s woman, the servant Clarissa.

Self-love and self-hate, the complicated politics of desire and, of course, America’s tortured history of race –- Southers gets it all down. A favorite moment: The magic that Southers works with John’s retelling of the fairy tale of Snow White as a way of professing his love for Clarissa. It's funny, shrewd and deeply moving all at once.

Shows remain at 8 p.m. nightly tomorrow and Friday, and 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets are $25-30 and are available here.

Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre is located on the third floor of 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown.

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